Zero to 180 – Three Minute Magic

Discoveries of a Pop Music Archaeologist

Billy Preston & Sly Stone: ’66

Two electric keyboard innovators who helped move popular music forward with their “futuristic” sounds – Billy Preston and Sly Stone – collaborated briefly in a musical partnership that produced this A-side, “Can’t She Tell”:

“Can’t She Tell”     Billy Preston (featuring Sly Stone)     1966

Jointly written by Billy Preston & Sly Stone and produced by David Axelrod, “Can’t She Tell” was recorded in 1966 and released as a 7-inch the following year.

Billy Preston 45_edited-13 other songs written by the two musicians — “It’s Got to Happen”; “Free Funk”; and “Advice” — would be included on the Sly Stone-arranged Billy Preston album from 1966, Wildest Organ in Town!.

Billy Preston LPIs it possible Billy and Sly first met at the 1966 recording session for (Grace Slick &) Great Society’s “Someone to Love” / “Free Advice” original indie 45 (pre-Columbia), a single that Sly produced and for which Billy played percussion.

Link to Richard Harrington’s tribute to Billy Preston from the Washington Post website.  Key quote:

“In bootlegged [Let It Be/Get Back] session tapes, one can hear several heated arguments between John Lennon and Paul McCartney about making Preston a group member (Lennon was all for it). That would have made Preston officially “the fifth Beatle,” a title he was not loath to exploit over the next three decades. Perhaps as consolation, “Get Back,” the only Beatles single to enter the British charts at No.1, was credited to “the Beatles with Billy Preston” — the first and only time the band shared the spotlight with a sideman. Preston also accompanied the Beatles during their famous rooftop gig in London, the Beatles’ last public performance.”

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